NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the league will no longer have teams wear themed jerseys during warmups for Pride Nights or any specialty night games going forward.
During the 2022-23 season, some teams decided to wear Pride-themed jerseys during warmups for predetermined games, while other teams did not. Several teams chose not to wear them during Pride nights despite initially announcing they would.
There were also instances of specific players choosing to skip warmups on the nights their teams wore the themed jerseys, and some members of the hockey community considered this a controversial stance for those teams and players to take.
“I’ve suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their jerseys in warmups because it’s become a distraction and taking away from the fact that all of our clubs in some form or another host nights in honour of various groups or causes, and we’d rather them continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction,” Bettman told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman in an exclusive interview following the NHL’s Board of Governors meeting on Thursday.
Friedman mentioned potential concerns some might have about this decision including (1) worrying about people in the game feeling comfortable in their own skin and (2) that it was made during Pride month.
“I agree those are legitimate concerns,” Bettman replied, “but in the final analysis, all of the emphasis and efforts on the importance of these various causes have been undermined by the distraction of which teams, which players (chose not to wear the jerseys), this way we’re keeping the focus on the game and on these specialty nights we’re going to be focussed on the cause.”
Bettman confirmed “absolutely” that Pride nights will continue and that “32 of our clubs did Pride nights, some do Heritage nights, everybody does Hockey Fights Cancer, some do military nights. All of those nights will continue. The only difference will be we’re not going to change jerseys for warmup because that’s just become more of a distraction from really the essence of what the purpose of these nights are.”
Bettman also confirmed Pride jerseys will continue to be designed and sold and players who choose to model them are free to do so.